Before we begin, a happy birthday to the 1980 World Champion, the far more likable version of Alan Jones, who turned 73 on Saturday!
Track: Circuit Of The Americas
Chapter 19: All My Ex-Teammates Are In Texas
The third to last round of the F1 went to the least insane city in Texas- Austin- And Dan The Man embraced the locals by changing his helmet decal to an exact replica of the fabled Longhorn helmet of the University of Texas.
It’s quite fitting- The Longhorns can’t win anything, and neither can Dan.
But of course, the biggest news of all this week.
Throughout practice, the key theme seemed to be the state of the bumpy asphalt, and drivers exceeding the track limits at Turn 19 and having their times deleted- The key to a legal lap was apparently “Red and white and you’re alright.”
Sergio Perez missed the weigh bridge at the end of FP2, and would have to start the race from the pit lane as punishment, while Ferrari’s problems continued when Charles LeClerc broke an engine before he’d even set a lap in FP3, but the Maranello Mafia avoided a penalty by replacing it with a used engine.
For the first since the Summer Break, Ferrari didn’t start on Pole Position, which coincided with the sudden rise of questions from their rivals about the legality of their engine design, and the FIA issuing a directive that the Scuderia’s supposed loophole would be illegal.
Needing a win to keep the title alive, Valtteri Bottas claimed pole by a nose hair to Sebastian Vettel, with Max Verstappen in 3rd, Charles LeClerc 4th and Lewis Hamilton in an unfamiliar 5th, and in better news, it was the first time Danny Ric had reached Q3 since Singapore, and thankfully, he wasn’t getting disqualified for some bullshit tic tac breach- He would start 9th.
On that note about engines, Ferrari? Cheating?
Nah, that would never happen.
Race (56 laps)
In the event that Bottas won the race, Hamilton would have to finish at least 8th, or 9th with a Fastest Lap BP, to claim the title.
Barring a sudden failure, it was a piece of piss with that Mercedes.
At the start, Bottas jumped best from Verstappen, Hamilton moved up to 3rd, as the Ferraris struggled badly, with LeClerc unable to get his tyres warmed up, and Vettel was bumped down to 7th, behind Norris and Dan The Man, as the German reported damage on the Ferrari, as he understeered into just about every corner of the bumpy track.
Albon fared worst of all, making decent contact with Carlos Sainz, forcing the Red Bull to pit for mediums, and dropping him to last, the second weekend running that a RB had to pit early after contact.
Not really making an impression on Dan’s rear wing, Vettel’s race ended abruptly on Lap 8, when he ran wide at Turn 9, and his right rear suspension failed after hitting a kerb, most likely having been weakened as a result of the early contact.
So with that incident, plus Albon being out of the picture for the time being, Dan was in a direct fight with Lando Norris for a very valuable 5th placing, and the advantage swung the way of Renault, when Ricciardo made a pass shortly after Vettel retire, and he would basically stay in front of the McLaren for the entire race.
Verstappen pitted on Lap 13 for Hard tyres, and Bottas likewise from the lead on Lap 15, and he emerged behind LeClerc, but soon passed the Ferrari, as pretty much every contender went on a 2 stop except Hamilton, who, as he did to win in Mexico, was on a 1 stop.
LeClerc pitted on Lap 21, but as if on queue, the Ferrari mechanics had a problem attaching the left rear, and he would be stationary for some 7.7 seconds, basically ending his podium chances, and briefly bringing him closer to Ricciardo, who made his only stop on Lap 22 for Hards.
Typical of Dan to once again have a Hard on.
Bottas caught up to Hamilton Lap 24, and breezed past with the help of the DRS down the back straight towards Turn 12, and began building a gap, as Hamilton finally pitted on Lap 25 for a set of Hard tyres to run to the end.
In the meantime, LeClerc had the best pace of anyone in the field, and Dan was still comfortably holding 5th from Norris, who was about 2 seconds behind.
Red Bull went the undercut and pitted Verstappen on Lap 35, but with Hamilton cutting down the lead to 10 seconds, Bottas pitted for the second and final time on Lap 36, crucially emerging ahead of Verstappen, and on fresh mediums, the Finn put the hammer down and gave chase to Hamilton some 16.8 seconds ahead, and was soon setting a pace that the Dutchman couldn’t contend with.
On Lap 38, Albon’s massive charge continued, catching Norris and passing him for 6th, and he was soon right on Dan’s tail, and the inevitable would eventually happen 2 laps later, as Albon moved into 5th, with LeClerc half a minute up the road.
Albon would pit again on Lap 40 and jump onto the Softs, dropping him back to 10th, as Norris also pitted again , and LeClerc pitted again to have a crack at a fastest lap bonus point, which he achieved on Lap 44 with a new record of 1.36.169.
Despite Hamilton setting his fastest lap, Bottas was soon within DRS range, and on Lap 51, Hamilton went too deep into Turn 11, and after a fight up the back straight, Bottas attempted a pass, but Hamilton strung him out wide and forced him off the road, and caused Toto Wolff to develop hemorrhoids.
Bottas lined up his teammate again on Lap 52, and with DRS assistance, he sailed right up the inside of the defenseless Hamilton, and claimed the small consolation of denying Lewis a win to seal the title.
In that time, Albon easily completed his 2nd comeback, moving past Dan once again for 5th, and further back, Pierre Gasly fell out of the points when his tyres hit the wall, and Norris caught teammate Sainz for 7th, but was running out of laps to cut down the Renault.
Verstappen closed up to within a second of Hamilton, but his chances of passing the Merc were pretty much dashed when Magnussen lost his front brakes and stopped in the gravel trap at Turn 12, bringing out the local yellow flags, and denying the drivers the chance at overtaking with DRS, which also helped Dan in holding off Norris.
After starting on Pole, Bottas claimed the win, his 4th for the year, as Hamilton wrapped up World Title No.6 by finishing 2nd from Verstappen, LeClerc set a new lap record in a very lonely 4th, Albon made a ripping comeback to finish 5th, and Dan The Man narrowly won the fight against Norris to be the best of the F1.5 field in 6th and 7th, separated by only 4-tenths at the chequered flag, and they were the last drivers on the lead lap.
For the second weekend running, Daniil Kvyat had another last lap incident fighting for points, this time running Sergio Perez off the road and damaging the Mexican’s front wing, and the Toro Rosso originally finished 10th, but was penalised 5 seconds for the incident, and dropped to 11th.
It was also the first time Bottas had even finished inside the Top 4 in a US Grand Prix in some 7 attempts, with the win locking up 2nd place in the Drivers’ Championship for 2019, and putting my Australian goggles back on, it was the first time Dan had finished in Austin since 2016, with that 6th placing moving him ahead of Perez for 9th in the Drivers’ Championship, and combined with The Hulk’s 9th placing, given them an 18 point buffer over Racing Point in the fight for 5th in the the Constructors’.
But pretty fairly, all honours went to Hamilton, who has been without a doubt the best driver in the best car all year (AGAIN) and now sits just one title behind Michael Schumacher in Seventh Heaven.
Seb came in to the cooldown room to congratulate Lewis on title Number 6… and gave Valtteri a congratulatory fistbump for existing.
So while David Croft committed verbal masturbation about Lewis Hamilton’s epic career, including a joke about how he’s now got ‘Six Appeal’, and gave an anecdote about his first race way back in Melbourne ’07, when he jumped up to 2nd by the first corner, finished 3rd, and how Sir Stirling Moss said he was the best thing he’d seen in his very long association with F1.
We get it Crofty- If you found Lewis in bed with your wife, which side would you get in on?
After the race ended, Max Verstappen noted Ferrari’s struggles this weekend and made a supposed light-hearted remark to Dutch channel Ziggo Sport, which roughly translated to “That’s what happens when you stop cheating.”
People in the F1 have long been allowed to impart their thoughts on Dutch TV completely unimpeded from censorship, like Paul Stoddart did back during the farcical scenes of the 2005 US Grand Prix.
Ah, the Dutch, they really are a bit out there.
Next Up: Brazil in a fortnight, and I’ll leave you with an image of what could well be two flatbeds rooting each other